Local Food Economy

Breaking Bread: Curating a safe place for people to break bread together

By Pauline Bourdon

Pauline Bourdon

In the summer of 2020, five Bristol businesses came together to develop Breaking Bread – a pop-up tipi village of socially distanced dining and drinking venues on Clifton Downs. As a response to the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating effects on the events and hospitality industries, here’s how they joined forces to build a socially responsible and sustainable enterprise. As Pauline Bourdon, Breaking Bread’s sustainability and social cohesion coordinator explains:

When the idea for Breaking Bread was conceived, it was very important that our initiatives were clear and in-line with food movements gaining momentum in Bristol, the wider South West area and the rest of the UK.

Breaking Bread is a collaboration between renowned restaurants The Pony & Trap and Bianchis Group (Pasta Loco and Pasta Ripiena), local favourite bars Pipe & Slippers and The Love Inn, and events production company Team Love. During our tenure on the Downs, we provided work for over 100 hospitality and event industry professionals both within and outside of the respective businesses’ established networks. The ability to put our colleagues back into meaningful work meant we saved an estimated £220,000 to the government by taking people off furlough and Universal Credit schemes.

While we wanted to offer exceptional and memorable culinary experiences, it was also important that the social and cultural value of eating was honoured. We curated a safe place for people in the community to congregate and break bread together once again. It was easy to recognise how social cohesion could make a positive impact in Bristol, but we also wanted Breaking Bread to have an equally valuable influence in other ways.

Our goal was to help strengthen Bristol’s food system by working in-line with the Bristol Bites Back Better campaign. In the three months that we were in operation, we engaged with 28 of the Bristol Going for Gold initiatives.

For example, approximately 50 businesses helped us deliver Breaking Bread, 36 of which were Bristol-based contractors and suppliers. We prioritised local food networks by investing in their organic produce, helping support local agriculture and reduce delivery-related emissions. This, along with ditching disposables and conducting a food waste audit, meant our environmental impact was low: only 16.4 tonnes of CO2 were emitted across the three months. Ecolibirum’s Trees + programme balanced this carbon by funding land regeneration and protection projects.

Right from the outset, we committed to donating a percentage of profit to support food-based community action. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Breaking Bread’s partners have also been involved in the city-wide effort to combat food insecurity.

The Pony & Trap and Pasta Loco were both involved with Caring in Bristol’s Cheers Drive Initiative that has provided food to homeless and vulnerably housed people. To date, Cheers Drive has delivered over 150,000 meals to some of society’s most vulnerable. The Pipe & Slippers and The Love Inn joined forces with The Plough Easton and a number of other pubs across the city to work on the Community Care Package project. Together they have stopped people going hungry by delivering free fruit and veg boxes thanks to a volunteer workforce of packers and drivers that have sent out over 24,000 life-saving boxes since March.

As the second lockdown forced us to close a couple of days early, our team quickly redirected their efforts and with donations from Breaking Bread customers, we’ve produced over 1700 meals for Bristolian families facing food insecurity.

We’re all incredibly proud of what Breaking Bread has achieved in its short lifetime, but we don’t want the good work to stop there. In 2021, we will be working to deepen our commitment to sustainable food by incorporating even more of the Bristol Going for Gold targets into our 2021 vision. This year, we aim to create a good food plan, introduce a space to grow food on-site and use our vicinity to support on-going community work. Positive food action doesn’t have an expiry date, so we hope that businesses within the city and beyond are inspired as we are by the vibrant, compassionate spirit that flows through Bristol’s veins.

Read the Breaking Bread 2020 Impact Report, researched and produced by Pauline Bourdon, the author of this blog and the sustainability and social cohesion coordinator at Breaking Bread.

Community Care Package, the scheme delivering free boxes of essential food to anyone who needs them, has been celebrated in the Bristol Bites Back Better survey highlighting food heroes around the city. Tell us what you want for food in Bristol and read the results of the survey so far. You can also read more on this blog about the work of Caring in Bristol and the Cheers Drive project: the UK’s first free food delivery service for the homeless.

By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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